The ‘Cité des Jeunes’ project aims at contributing to the peace process in Burundi by action in the following areas:
1. Promoting quality and access in the school system.
The lengthy civil war has paralysed the Burundian school system which was already vulnerable because of the conflict: 391 schools destroyed, textbooks lost, teachers killed or left as refugees elsewhere, 77,000 children who have not continued their schooling or did not even begin it.
Amongst the adults, the level of schooling is very low: 52% for males and 20% for females, while 65% of the population remains illiterate. Education is a priority for them and also a means for a lasting peace: being left out of things is a result of varying levels of access to education and also gives rise to violence. The most urgent need then is to increase the availability of schooling to guarantee more equitable access to education for all groups in Burundian society.
The project aims at building six school classroom blocks for primary education, literacy, support for 300 individuals per year (street children, poor kids, single mothers or mothers who must be the breadwinner...).
2. The development of technical training and the economic rehabilitation of displaced persons.
The return of refugee and displaced persons, the demobilisation of former combatants, the destruction of economic and social infrastructures and the persistent insecurity problems have together generated a rapid growth in poverty in an already very difficult situation. Besides, voluntary emigration on the part of many young people has continued from around the countryside since the high population density relative to arable areas (the mean size of a farm is half a hectare) offers only meagre subsistence. Refugees in search of new places to live and emigrants seeking their fortune crowd the outskirts of Bujumbura, making the search for work a difficulty. Increasing unemployment represents another serious problem threatening social stability and the future development of Burundi. The lack of properly qualified manpower does not encourage diversification of production, which is needed to absorb the return of displaced persons, to lower the pressure on land tenure and to increase the productive basis of the economy. Only 1.8% of upper level school students take on technical training. Only 9% of Burundian students between 13-19 years of age get as far as secondary school.
The project hopes to set up two year courses in technical training in areas such as information technology, secretarial work, carpentry, metalwork and soldering, hydraulics, joinery, brick-laying, tailoring for a total of 500 15-21 year old Hutu and Tutsi students per year. Also for young drop outs, single mothers, and poor young people generally.
3. A local response to the problems of street children.
A further social problem, tied to urbanisation, is added to that of lack of stable employment: for many families the passage from a rural communal lifestyle to the individualism of city living has altered the nature of personal relationships with the consequent breakdown of the family structure. The number of children living in a difficult situation has grown considerably in the country and especially on the outskirts of Bujumbura: there are young children who are the breadwinners, unaccompanied youngsters, children in prison, displaced children, street children, child soldiers (the ‘doriya’) still living with military groups, refugee children, orphans, and children from marginalised groups like the Batwa. To these we can add the growing number of AIDS orphans estimated to be around 90,000 in number
The project aims at providing reception places (dormitories, kitchen and refectories) to accommodate 150 youngsters per year. These will be given the chance to recover, to go to school, receive technical training and be prepared for work. These places will be opened to any child in difficulty: the kitchen will provide 500 meals daily for the children of the most disadvantaged families.